‘Miracles are not going to happen’: Row breaks out over Germany’s slow Covid- 19 vaccine rollout

Progress on Germany's Covid-19 vaccination programme is slow - and that doesn't look like it will change soon. Here's the reaction to the vaccination summit.

'Miracles are not going to happen': Row breaks out over Germany's slow Covid- 19 vaccine rollout
Outside a vaccination centre in Berlin. Photo: DPA

What's happening?

Germany's vaccination programme has been hit with supply issues while its been slammed for its slow pace.

On Monday Angela Merkel, state leaders, pharmaceutical bosses and the EU Commission held an emergency vaccination summit to discuss what's gone wrong, and how it can be improved.

Merkel reassured the population that everyone would be offered a vaccine by the end of summer (September 21st). However, she said there would be vaccine shortages until the end of March.

She added: “I think we have been able to bring a bit of reality into this today, because miracles are not going to happen now.”

The Chancellor announced that the government would put together a national “vaccination plan” which should help states plan and offer appointments more efficiently.

READ MORE: Germany to launch national vaccination campaign amid disappointment over shortages

What's the reaction?

After the meeting Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) said there would be “tough weeks of shortages” in the first quarter to April. 

“This cannot be accelerated any faster, not even with money,” he said. Spahn said there would be significantly more vaccine doses available in the second quarter.

BioNTech boss Ugur Sahin told broadcaster ARD that the manufacturers were in an exceptional situation.

“We ourselves depend on suppliers to deliver materials to us,” he explained. “We don't have full warehouses either.

“Everything we produce is de facto delivered immediately.” If there is a delay because of a problem, it affects everything immediately, he said.

However, the government is still facing criticism following Monday's talks.

The Greens, the Left, party, and the Free Democrats all expressed disappointment after the top-level talks.

Green parliamentary group leader Anton Hofreiter told the Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland: “This summit has exposed the government's failures.”

He said the German government and the European Commission should now set up a task force on vaccine procurement.

Green party leader Robert Habeck said a vaccination summit is supposed to explain the current strategy – but instead only a vague plan had been announced.

READ ALSO: How can Germany speed up its vaccination campaign?

“And I don't think that is satisfactory,” he said.

On Monday German firm Bayer said it was to produce a Covid-19 vaccine currently being developed by CureVac from 2022.

Habeck said the government must check to see if more vaccine production opportunities were out there.

The leader of the Left Party in the Bundestag, Amira Mohamed Ali, said: “I expect the federal government to stop beating around the bush and present a clear plan on how it wants to end this vaccination chaos.”

Dietmar Bartsch, leader of the Left parliamentary group, also said a clear plan was needed on how to lead Germany out of the “vaccination disaster”.

“This would require a clear production and distribution plan that takes effect in the short term,” Bartsch told the newspapers of the Funke Mediengruppe.

Representatives of the states also expressed their dissatisfaction.

Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania's state premier Manuela Schwesig (Social Democrats) said: “The EU commissioners could not convincingly explain to me why more (vaccine) was not ordered, as is the case in other countries.”

READ ALSO: How long might it take to get a coronavirus vaccination in Germany?

Detailed vaccination schedule needed

However, some believe the talks were a step in the right direction.

Chief executive of the Association of Cities, Helmut Dedy, told the Rheinische Post that there was now more transparency about vaccine deliveries.

“We very much hope that this will also result in more planning security for the municipalities that operate the vaccination centres,” he said.

Head of the Association of Towns and Municipalities, Gerd Landsberg, told the Funke Mediengruppe that the intention to achieve better coordination in the allocation of appointments is a good one.

“We therefore expect the creation of a vaccination schedule that is as detailed as possible to be pushed forward as quickly as possible,” he said.

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EXPLAINED: The new rules around getting a sick note over the phone in Germany

Due to high Covid infection numbers throughout the summer, it’s now possible to get a sick note from a doctor over the phone again for some illnesses. Here’s what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: The new rules around getting a sick note over the phone in Germany

What’s happened?

In spring 2020, German authorities changed the law so that people with a mild upper respiratory tract illness, such as the common cold, were able to get an incapacity to work certificate or AU-Bescheinigung by simply calling and speaking to their GP.

The rule was extended several times and finally reversed on June 1st this year due to falling infection figures. Since then people have had to go back to the practice – or do a video call if the doctor’s office has that system in place – to get a sick note.

Now, due to a decision by the Joint Federal Committee, the regulation has been reintroduced and patients can call their GP again for a sick note.

Can I get a sick note over the phone for any illness?

No. As before, the regulation only applies to patients suffering from a mild upper respiratory tract illness. Though Covid has not explicitly been named in the announcement, it seems that it is intended to be covered by the regulation.

If the doctor is convinced that the patient is unfit for work after a telephone consultation, then they can issue a sick note for up to seven days.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The changes around doctor’s notes in Germany you should know

If the symptoms persist after seven days, the certificate can be extended once more for another week.

Why now?

According to the Chairman of the G-BA, Josef Hecken, the regulation has been introduced now as a response to rising Covid numbers and in anticipation of the cold and flu season in the coming months: “We want to avoid full waiting rooms in doctors’ offices and the emergence of new infection chains,” he said.

The telephone sick leave rule is a simple, proven and uniform nationwide solution for that, he said. The rule is also necessary because video consultation hours are not yet available everywhere.

What else should I know?

The health insurer DAK is calling for telephone sick leave in the case of light respiratory diseases to be made possible on a permanent basis in Germany. DAK’s CEO Andreas Storm said that this should “not always be up for debate, because it has proven itself.” 

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about making a doctor’s appointment in Germany

The social association VdK also welcomed the reintroduction of the rule. The VdK’s President Verena Bentele said that the regulation would help to protect high-risk groups in particular from potential infections.

What are the rules to know about sick notes in Germany?

Germany has a strict system in place. If you are sick, you need to give your employer a Krankmeldung (notification of sickness) before the start of work on the first day (of your illness).

However, you also need to hand in a Krankschreibung (doctor’s note) on the fourth day of your illness. Some employments contracts, however, require you to submit a sick not earlier than the fourth day so check with your boss or HR on that point.